Queer Corner: 50 Shades Of Kink: An Exploratory Interview

Queer Corner: 50 Shades Of Kink: An Exploratory Interview

With the recent release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian Grey’s sexually dominating behavior is on a lot of people’s minds. You don’t have to like the movie to appreciate its place in popular culture and the stir of opinions it has caused. So, what does this film have to do with queerness? I’ve invited someone with above-average knowledge of BDSM/kink culture, sophomore Bennie Guzman, to give us some greater insight. 

Kris Pfister: Alright, let’s start with the basics. What is BDSM?

Bennie Guzman: So the full definition is bondage/discipline, domination/submission, sadism/masochism. It encompasses a whole bunch of different things. There’s tickle torture all the way to extreme.

KP: There is debate about whether or not BDSM culture should be associated with the LGBTQ community. What do you think? Should it be, should it not be?

BG: I definitely think it should be. Especially if we’re including the queer aspect of it – yes, it should be included. It’s something that is queering sex. BDSM culture is all about sexual freedom; it is kind of a counterculture. One of the biggest critiques is that being LGBTQ is more than just sex, but at the same time, sex is the only thing that makes us different from everyone else. I think it is something that should be talked about. 

KP: Getting more into the specifics of BDSM, why is there such a stigma against the Domination/submission (D/s) community in particular?

BG: I think it’s primarily media and what we’ve been taught to think about sex. BDSM is a spectrum of different things. I think people have been taught to assume that BDSM is whips/chains/leather, but it encompasses so much more than that. People leave out tickle play and light touches – both are forms of BDSM. I think D/s in particular has such a stigma around it because we see a problem with it. In BDSM relationships, it is agreed upon that someone will dominate and someone will submit; whereas in society, there’s this assumption that someone will dominate and someone will submit. And that’s where we get into some of these ideas of domestic violence, abuse and power struggles in relationships. We assume BDSM perpetuates those things when in actuality it asks for something more. 

KP: As you know, the popular film adaptation of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey recently debuted. How well do you think this film represents the D/s community?

BG: It doesn’t. It just doesn’t. I felt it did two things: it romanticizes abuse, but at the same time it demonizes BDSM. There’s a lot of Christian Grey pressuring Anastasia Steele. In that sense, it’s more abuse. We assume that the abuse is because of the BDSM play, but in actuality those two are mutually exclusive things. There are some moments in which they are having fun, but later on she’s trying to get into a deeper point in the relationship and he’s not budging until he gets what he wants. I think at that point she feels like she has to be submissive in order to get his attention. If you take out the BDSM, you would see that there’s just abuse. He manipulates her into doing things that he wants to do. A good thing I saw from it is that the film does bring light to BDSM, but it makes it appear that the problem with the relationship is BDSM; it places the blame on BDSM. It doesn’t put it on him, it puts it on the culture. I think the ramifications of the film are more harmful than beneficial.

KP: Going back to the abusive standpoint, would you say that it is the film’s portrayal of emotional intimacy, or lack thereof, that is unhealthy rather than the D/s relationship specifically?

BG: I definitely think so. If you were to separate the movie into just the BDSM scenes and the “romantic” things, you would see two different films. In the emotional aspect, they’re both very manipulating towards each other and it makes it seem as though they can control each other all the time. That’s one of the biggest assumptions made about BDSM culture: if you’re a Dominant, you are always dominant, an abuser, a sadist. That’s not how it is. Fifty Shades of Grey demonizes BDSM because it puts the play with unhealthy relationships. If you’re going to have a BDSM relationship, you need to have a healthy relationship first. BDSM relationships are probably healthier because there is constant communication. That’s how healthy relationships should be; it should be a conversation. The film takes out aspects such as aftercare and communication – the good things that come from BDSM relationships.